I Visited Cane Ridge and Midway (1)
About a year ago, while engaged in a meeting at Lexington, Kentucky, it was my good pleasure to visit many historical places in connection with the restoration movement. This movement is so called because the preachers in it urged a restoration of religious matters to the practice found in the New Testament. Barton W. Stone was a great preacher in the movement and later Alexander Campbell was, too. About 1832, both of them met and found almost entire agreement between themselves, with the aim being the same -- restore New Testament religion. In and around Lexington, many of the early restoration preachers are buried. To name a few: Barton W. Stone, Jacob Creath, Jr., Robert Milligan, John Smith, John W. McGarvey, I.B. Grubbs, and John T. Johnson.
As I walked through the campus of Translyvania College in Lexington, on which campus is located the original college of the Bible building where McGarvey and Milligan taught, I thought of the tremendous change of one hundred years. The completeness of an apostacy was exceedingly real, for I could see what was presently the belief and practice and knew from past study of restoration history what was believed and practiced by the pioneer preachers on many fundamental points.
Brethren Vernon Sanders and Barney Keith took me on a tour of the cemeteries, where are buried many gospel preachers, and also to Cane Ridge meeting house near Paris, Kentucky.
The inscription on the tombs intrigued me and many of them expressed the sentiment of those whom they were erected to commemorate. Take this one at the grave of John (Raccoon) Smith in the Lexington cemetery: "In Memory of John Smith, An elder of the Church of Christ, Born, Oct. 15, 1784, Died, Feb. 29, 1868, True, genial and pious, the good loved and all revered him. Strong through affliction and wise by the study of God's word. He gave up the creed of his fathers for the sake of the Word. By its power he turned many from error. In the Light he walked and in its consolation he tranquilly died." This great preacher of the gospel was the great grandfather of Brother H. Leo Boles. Out of denominationalism this man came, having to leave the religion of his forefathers, but he loved the Lord more than he loved man. Such is the heart that the Lord calls to be his disciple (Luke 14:25-35).
At Cane Ridge, this inscription is found on the tomb at the grave of Nathaniel Rogers: "Here lies Nathaniel Rogers, who was born in 1753. He was a member of the convention which framed the constitution of Kentucky in 1799. What is of far more consequence, he was a member of the Church of Christ in the bosom of which he died on the 22nd of December 1801. . ." (I hope this is accurate for the tomb was so worn it was difficult to read). The tomb of William Rogers at Cane Ridge informs us that he "united with the Church of Christ at Cane Ridge in 1807." This inscription appears on Stone's tombstone: "The Church of Christ at Cane Ridge and other generous friends in Kentucky, have caused this monument to be erected as a tribute of affection and gratitude to BARTON W. STONE, minister of the gospel of Christ and the distinguished reformer of the 19th century. Born, Dec. 24, 1772, Died, Nov. 9, 1844: His remains lie here. This monument erected in 1847."
The Cane Ridge meeting house was constructed as a Presbyterian assembly place in 1791. Stone began preaching there in 1796, and continued until 1812. In 1801, Cane Ridge was the scene of a revival that at times had as many as 30,000 people in attendance. After a study of the Bible, the Presbyterians there came to the conclusion they were wrong in their doctrines and practice, and, therefore, on June 28, 1804, dissolved the Springfield Presbytery, stating that men could make no laws of religion, and pledged themselves to return to the Bible and "adopt the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." In short, they declared their intention of renouncing all human creeds and disciplines and of being goverened by the Bible only.
One part of that "Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery" reads as follows: "We will, that the people henceforth take the Bible as the only sure guide to heaven; and as many as are offended with other books, which stand in competition with it, may cast them into, the fire if they choose; for it is better to enter into life having one book, than having many to be cast into hell." Another item states the following: "We will, that our weak brethren, who may have been wishing to make the Presbytery of Springfield their king, and wot not what is now become of it, betake themselves to the Rock of Ages, and follow Jesus for the future." And another item called on every church "never henceforth delegate her right of government to any man or set of men whatever." The last statement in it, "Finally we will, that all our sister bodies read their Bibles carefully, and prepare for death before it is too late."
In September, 1803, differences arose between Stone and some other men on the one hand and the Synod of Kentucky on the other. Stone and his associates, who had formed the Springfield Presbytery, wrote its last will and Testament and took their stand upon the word of the Lord, contending for "the faith." Since Stone was no longer a Presbyterian, he offered to leave Cane Ridge, but the people refused to let him go, and they too took the same stand upon the Bible. About 1823, Campbell was preaching the same gospel, and came to Kentucky on a preaching tour that was highly successful among the Baptists. On January 1, 1832, Campbell and Stone met on Hill Street in Lexington (the building still stands) and went forward together.
The original meeting house constructed at Cane Ridge in 1791 is now housed in a stone structure which was dedicated in June 1957. These words appear on a bronze plaque to the right of the entrance of the stone structure : "In launching the Cane Ridge preservation project, the trustees were not seeking merely to preserve a building, but, above all, to preserve and give reality to a dream, an ideal, a spirit of oneness in God which shall forever be associated with Cane Ridge, the birthplace of a faith."
Barton W. Stone and his associates left "a faith," the Presbyterian, for "the faith" (Jude 3). How complete can an apostacy be? Visit Cane Ridge and call to mind the principles those brethren espoused in dissolving the Springfield Presbytery, and read what some Christian Church preachers have written concerning the birth of "a faith." The seed of the kingdom is the word of God (Luke 8:11), and when that word is sown in the hearts of men, it will produce what it did when it was first preached. Faith born of that word (Rom. 10:17) is the only faith that will save, and the Word itself is "the faith" which was once for all time delivered to the saints (Jude 3). What Stone and the others with him strove for was to teach "the faith" and to destroy all "faiths" devised by men. The plaque referred to in its words betrays the very thing for which the Springfield Presbytery died.
Material available at the "shrine" tells about the movement in words that convey the idea that another denomination was born. For instance, "This 'Temple of Christian Unity' shelters the historical 'Cane Ridge Meeting-House' which was built in 1791, and was the scene of the famous Cane Ridge Revival in 1801. Here, under the leadership of its minister, Barton W. Stone, on June 28, 1804, was born the older of two movements for Christian unity known as the 'Christian Church,' or the 'Disciples of Christ.'" Stone left denominationalism for the Lord's way, but, today men are claiming the birth of another denomination.
Truth Magazine IV:9, pp. 1-2